Advice From A Doctor About Interacting With A Doctor

← Back to Blog June 8th, 2017 Tags: patient-tipspersonal-responsibilityphysician-posts
by John Hunt, MD
Chief Medical Officer, Liberty HealthShare

Doctors are busy, often times and unfortunately because they are filling out forms for bureaucracies. This busyness can leave patients feeling cheated, like they are fighting for their physician’s full attention in the short amount of one-on-one time they actually get with him or her.

So how can you get what you need and steward yours and your fellow members’ resources well when you often have barely any time to speak to the doctor?

Here is some advice that can help you maximize the time you spend with your doctor:

  1. Go to your appointment with a written list of questions in order of priority. The doctor may not get to answer them all in one visit, but this way you won’t forget something important and you can plan with him or her how to address them over time.
  2. The best results come from combining the doctor’s knowledge of disease with your knowledge of yourself. That requires good communication. With the hectic pace of doctor-patient interactions these days, that communication often needs to be rapid and efficient in both directions.
  3. In the good old days, patients and doctors had time to chat about our family, friends, jobs, stresses, grandchildren, etc. All of that was very helpful to doctors whom patients knew and saw regularly. It is actually part of optimum medical care to know the whole situation in which the patient lives, works, and plays. I strongly suggest trying to find yourself a DOCTOR (singular) with whom you can have such a relationship, but if you are seeing a doctor that you will only see once, consider just giving him or her the facts for efficiency’s sake. In such settings, don’t expect to receive as holistic and thoughtful a level of care as you would get from a doctor with whom you have a long-time relationship.
  4. Very few doctors know what drugs really cost, and they have no idea what your out of pocket expense will be. Please educate them. The time to do this is before your doctor starts writing (or typing) a prescription. Don’t let him or her step out and later send a nurse in with a prescription that you cannot ask about. Instead, before the doctor steps out of the exam room, tell him or her that you are prepared to look up drug prices right then and ask him or her to write the prescriptions with you in the exam room. This way you can ensure that you both know the price of the drug right when you need to know it.

Be firm and insist the doctor listens to you. Do not let him or her get away with glossing over something you think is important. In return, listen to the doctor’s questions and try to answer them succinctly.

I asked a patient how long she had been in pain. She responded, “A while.” That answer wasn’t helpful diagnostically, so I asked her, “how long a while?” She responded, “Quite some while.” This story demonstrates how not to answer questions. Doctors aren’t dentists. They aren’t good at pulling teeth. Time is tight, so answer questions as well as you can, with specific and useful answers.

Give the doctor the information he or she asks for and also make sure to share the information you think it is important for him or her to know.

Of course, you should always try to go to your doctor, not just any doctor. If your doctor is in a group practice and you get bounced around from one doctor to another, consider finding a practice where the doctor-patient relationship is a higher priority.

For now, I recommend you have your Sav-Net prescription drug guide with you at the doctor’s office to show your doctor the price tiers for the various drug classes. That is the best time for you to have your doctor think about the costs of what he or she is about to prescribe and to consider selecting cheaper, comparable options.

Passive recipients of medical care get sub par care. The more you involve yourself in your medical care, the better it will be. Individual patient engagement is a key component of how Liberty HealthShare strives to make our corner of the world better. Thank you for being part of us.